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Repeal Won't Go Quietly In Connecticut

Emma Weisfeld-Adams

We thought we’d be celebrating Connecticut ending the death penalty right about now.

But, earlier this month, the repeal bill the media called a shoe-in was derailed when two pro-repeal Senators decided to postpone their votes. The Senators were accommodating the request of Dr. William Petit, whose family was murdered in a high-profile case that’s still pending.

The postponement came as a shock to many, and the outraged responses started pouring in. The Connecticut Post had a piece in its opinion pages entitled "Forget what the law says - there is no death penalty."

Ridgefield Police Commissioner George Kain and retired police officer Terrence Dwyer put out an op-ed saying, “What [the two Senators] did not tell us, though, is that it will be years and years of continued waiting for these or any executions to occur, or if any executions will actually ever occur at all.”

The Hartford Courant put out an editorial arguing that the Senators' temporary switch on repeal will just make things worse for families of murder victims. But many of the responses came from Connecticut’s community of murder victims’ family members themselves.

Earlier this year 83 such family members signed a letter asking lawmakers to repeal. The letter pointed out the way death sentences plunge families into an endless quagmire of uncertainty and media attention. It also talked about the way the death penalty system divides families.

Victoria Coward, whose 18-year-old son was murdered, said in a recent op-ed:

“The bigger picture is that the death penalty is given in fewer than 1 percent of cases, yet it sucks up millions and millions of dollars that could be put toward crime prevention or victims’ services… I feel for Dr. Petit, and I understand his pain better than most. The last thing I want is to appear to be “against” Dr. Petit – and I assure you, I most certainly am not. But that is the illusion that the death penalty system creates. It has said to us that some cases are different, some cases are worthier of our attention, some hurt is deeper.”

EJUSA’s Colleen Cunningham, who has been working on the ground in Connecticut throughout the repeal campaign, said that it should only take one more year: “We already have the votes in the Senate, more than enough votes in the House, the support of the Governor, and continued momentum for repeal across the state. Repeal is inevitable. And we look forward to 2012, when we can finally kick it out the door.”

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